Allen Christensen (R-UT), proposed to make newly documented immigrants wait five years to get government health insurance programs. If accepted, the proposal would strip more than 400 children of health benefits.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Christensen said he is trying to promote self-reliance and discourage “socialism”. Critics said his proposal is “mean-spirited” and some see it as an attack on newly documented immigrants, who are mostly Latinos.
He says the legislation doesn’t have anything to do with congressional fights on reauthorizing and funding CHIP “It’s a philosophical thing,” said Christensen. “Do we welcome immigrants and say the minute you get here you can have Medicaid when a lot of our people who are already here don’t?”
According to Utah Department of Health spokesman, Tom Hudachko, the result of such a change would be to strip CHIP coverage from 475 documented-immigrant children who recently qualified for it. However, that would not save Utah any money, since the Federal government covers the costs of Medicaid for new immigrants.
President and CEO of Voices for Utah Children, Lincoln Nehring, says he could understand the proposal if it would benefit the state’s budget but since it doesn’t, he believes there are “darker” motives. “His motivation is he doesn’t think these [documented immigrant] kids are deserving, or as deserving as other children,” Nehring says.
“He is making a moral choice that legal immigrant children are not as deserving of health-care coverage as citizens’ children. As an organization that cares about kids, we strongly disagree with that,” he continued.
Oscar Solis, new Catholic bishop for Utah wrote a letter to Christensen, saying, “This lack of coverage for our youth affected not only their immediate health but their future prospects as well.” Solis said that the plan could put children at risk, just as they were before the waiting period got lifted.
The waiting period led to discrepancies. Children that lawfully immigrated with their families had to wait five years, but those who were born here are a citizen and qualified for healthcare immediately.
Christensen drafted SB48 but is still not sure he’s going to run it. He says he wants to see where public debate may go. “I put it together, and we’ll see if we end up running it or sit on it,” he said.
This article was inspired by Salt Lake Tribune // A Utah lawmaker says his proposal simply encourages self-reliance — but some see it as an attack on new, legal immigrants